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Print Page - Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?


Post-war Aviation - The Jet Age => Other types and general => Topic started by: Pete57 on March 09, 2013, 04:12:16 PM

Title: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Pete57 on March 09, 2013, 04:12:16 PM
For nearly a month, U.N. pilots in Korea had been catching glimpses of a new Russian jet fighter. Last week First Lieut. James D. Carey of Las Vegas, Nev. "found myself on the tail of this funny-looking bird. Looked like a MiG-15, except the wings were high up on the fuselage. I gave him a few bursts and caught him in the right wing. Then other Reds started coming from all sides, and I had to get out. They seemed to be trying to protect the new boy."
 Next day F-86 Sabre jets spotted a formation of the new planes, but the Reds refused to fight. The Air Force's first hunch was that the Russians were trying an advanced new MIG, possibly the much rumored MiG-19. But later the Air Force guessed that the new plane is either an older, experimental MIG model never mass-produced or no MIG at all, and dubbed it tentatively "Type 15."

Thus Time Magazine described, in the Monday, Mar. 31, 1952 issue, the encounter by Lt. James D. Carey of Las Vegas, NA, that had taken place a week before over North Korea.

This is what Warren Thompson writes on pages 28 and 29 of Wings of Fame, Premiere Issue, #1

As has been noted, the MiG-15 was optimised for the bomber-destroyer role, with its heavy-calibre, slow-firing 37-mm cannon and high-altitude performance. The smaller, nimbler Lavochkin La-15 ?Fantail? had always been intended as the Soviet Union?s primary air superiority jet  fighter and, with its greater speed, agility and armament of three 23-mm cannon, was felt to be more than a match for the Sabre.  An evaluation unit of 22 La-15s was sent to China for service over Korea. Fortunately for UN fighter pilots, the La-15 proved unable to operate in the primitive conditions encountered in China, and no fewer than four aircraft were written off in landing accidents before the detachment was sent home. This marked the beginning of the end for the La-15 and only about 600 were built, their flimsy landing gear condemning them to second-line duties at well] prepared airfields in  the Soviet heartland. Frontal Aviation had no need for such a delicate aircraft!

Where the information came from was clarified by Mr. Thompson in an email to me dated July 29, 2012, based on information he had obtained from Larry Davis, author of many a book/article on the Korean Air War.

According to a Czech aviation magazine, a squadron of about 22 LA-15 jet aircraft was sent to China for combat tests (read that Antung/Fencheng, etc) but the austere conditions proved too much for the LA-15 landing gear, which prompted the return of the unit to the USSR.
And someone in the Sabre pilots assn. has some gun camera film taken at close range, showing a swept wing jet fighter with a high shoulder-mounter wing being shot up by a Sabre. And there are multiple reports in the CIA Current Intelligence Bulletins written during the Korean War, of multiple sightings of "type-15" jet fighters with shoulder-mounted wings (i.e. LA-15 jets).
The Soviets have denied this up and down but ........  Anyway, this is what I have on the subject. I plan to write something up for the SJC and see what happens.


On July 30, I received more info by Larry Davis, thru W.Thompson

This is from the Sperry gunsight rep's report regarding exact info about kills including how much ammo was used, gun sight type, aircraft serial, etc. It states as follows:
"The LA-15; one reported probably destroyed 19 March 1952. This jet fighter was remarkably similar in appearance to the MiG-15 and was noted on early USAF enemy aircraft recognition charts used in Korea as the 'type-15.' " Etc, etc about the qualities of the 'type-15' ending with the following: "Soviet intelligence sources claim the LA-15 was never flown in combat."
Checking the squadron histories for that date revealed nothing. But, a further scramble revealed the following from the official 4th FIG "Enemy Aircraft Clims[sic]" document, which lists every kill, probable, and damaged including pilot, rank, date and type of enemy aircraft:
3 April 1952, claim #417
1Lt BB Dobbs, 335th FIS, F-86E-10 #51-2787, using the type A1CM sight and fied [sic] 1800 rounds, resulting in two prpbables [sic] of 'type-15' enemy jet aircraft
then claim #418
1Lt ME Dearmond, 334th FIS, F-86E-10 #51-2770, using type A1CM sight, fired 1400 rounds, resulting in damage to SIX!! 'type 15' enemy jets.
So there you have it, That's all the info I have. Maybe I'll run something in the next SJC and see what pops.


And this is what Thompson writes on page 154 of MiG Alley ? Sabres vs. MiGs Over Korea

From the pen of an exchange pilot with the 4th Fighter Group, Sqn. Ldr. W. ?Paddy? Harbison (RAF air vice marshal, retired) reported the following upon his return to England: ? To sum up, there is no doubt that the MiG armament contains a punch sufficient to knock down an F-86 with relatively few hits.                          The combination of their low rate of fire, low muzzle velocity, and their pilot ability has, however, saved F-86s from serious losses. The F-86 evasive spiral prevents the MiG-15 from pulling enough lead to enable its shells to connect. The enemy?s Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) with its faster firing 12x7mm guns may cause a little more trouble. The salient fact remains, however, the F-86 pilot-weapon combination is far superior to the MiGs in air-to-air combat.?
Lt. J. D. Carey damaged a Type-15 in March 1952. It was described as a ?funny looking? MiG, with wings high up on the fuselage. Other sightings of Type-15 or La-15s were reported in March, when Squadron Leader Harbison was with the 4th Group.

The following information comes from various files on line, in the CIA FOIA ? Special Collection Korean War ( (

From file 1 June 1951 Current Intelligence Bulletin (1951-06-01), page 3
A recent Air Force operational summary includes a delayed report of a 10 May sighting by a B-26 pilot of an enemy twin-jet fighter in northwestern Korea. The UN pilot "definitely identified" the enemy fighter as very similar to the German ME-262 (which bears the superficial characteristics of the Soviet Type 8 jet). While inferior gunnery seemed to negate the possibility of air-borne radar, the enemy aircraft may have been vectored in by ground control. FEAF speculates that this third sighting of an enemy twin-jet aircraft may indicate the presence of a new type aircraft in Korea "for combat testing, possibly with a view to adaptation, for use as an all-weather night fighter. "
Comment: While no confirmation of the type or performance of these new aircraft has been received, it is probable that the USSR is conducting operational tests of newer types of jet aircraft along the Sino-Korean border. Additionally there have been two sightings of enemy jet aircraft of an unidentified type believed to be Type 15 Soviet fighters.

From file 2 July 1951 Daily Korean Bulletin Jul-Sep (1951-07-02b), page 23
DAILY KOREAN BULLETIN       14 July 1951   SIC 9619
Referring to a recent report that an RF-80 vas attacked by 20 enemy jet aircraft of high-wing type, the Far East Air Force comments that possibly these jets were Type 15 fighters, and if so this is the largest number of this type ever observed in Korea. While three other encounters tend to confirm that the Type 15, has been committed to combat in Korea, such commitment has not been made on a significant scale. The effectiveness of the Type 15 as compared with the MIG-15 has not been definitely established, although some reports indicate that the Type 15 might be slightly superior.
From file 20 July 1951 Daily Digest (1951-07-20), page 1
?It is equally, true that the Soviets have improved jet aircraft under development which bave not been seen in combat.1 The Soviet MIG-l5 and Type 15 jet fighters used in Korea are best described as being generally comparable to the US F-86 Sabre Jet . ?

From file 17 October 1951 Daily Digest (1951-10-17b), page?s 2 & 3
UN fighter pilots? observations of enemy aircraft: During the course of an encounter between 80 MIG-15 and 32 F-86?s in the Sinuiju-Slnanju area on the afternoon of 12 October, UN pilots observed the following:
(1) One enemy aircraft in a flight was "a shoulder wing type and was believed to be a Type-15.? The UN aircraft passed within 100 feet of the enemy plane and observed the figure "1.?  but no other markings.
(2) A MIG pilot was wearing a dark colored, close fitting helmet. The enemy pilot also wore an oxygen mask but no goggles, and appeared to be light oomplexioned .?

Comment: While still not confirmed, it is entirely possible that the enemy is employing the Type-15 for combat testing purposes and is attempting to conceal its presence among the more familiar MIG-15?s.
It would-appear difficult to detect the coloration of an enemy pilot under conditions of high-speed jet combat. It is probable, however, that Soviet personnel are piloting some of the enemy jet aircraft encountered in Korea.

From file 01 April 1952 Daily Korean Bulletin Apr-Jun (1952-04-01b), page 1
2 April 1952
?A total of 382 MIG-15's and three Type 15' s were sighted, of which 87 were engaged. ?
                                 page 4
                        OCI 4887      
3 April 1952      
FEAF aircraft destroyed five MIG-15' s and one Type-15 and damaged four MIG's and one Type-15. ?

                                page 5
                        OCI 1,888
1, April 1952
In three engagements over northwest Korea, FEAF planes destroyed two MIG-l5's, probably destroyed a Type 15, and damaged four MIG's and one Type 15; Two F-86's received major damage. ?
                                                                                                                             page 10
                        OCI 4801
8 April 1952
During the last two weeks of March, the US Fifth Air Force, operating over
Korea, observed the following new developments in the air war: the Communist MIG-15 formations have been encountered at lower altitudes -- between 20,000 and 40,000 feet; the Type 15 jet has appeared again in numbers with some modification of its armament and a greater degree of aggressiveness; ?
                               page 28
                        OCI 4902
21 April 1952
Within a two and one half hour period 63 F-86's had eight engagements with 105 MIG-15' s and two Type-15' s over northwest, Korea. Nine MIG's were destroyed and eight MIG's and one Type-15 were damaged; no friendly losses were reported. FEAF planes flew a total of 915 sorties.                     
                                                                                                                                page 30
                        OCI 4903
22 April 1952
Revised figures for air engagements reported in the Daily Korean Bulletin of 21 April are seven MIG-l5's destroyed, four damaged and one Type-15 damaged.
One F-86 was lost. ?
                               page 44

                        OCI 4911
1 May 1952
A total of 112 enemy jets was observed in northwest Korea, of which 51were encountered in eight engagements by F-86's, F-80? s, and F9F's. Six MIG-15's were destroyed and three MIG's and two Type-15's were damaged. One F-80 was lost and an F-86 and F9F received major damage. ?
                               page 93
                        OCI 6024
5 June 1952
A UN F-51 pilot, on 31 May, while observing two MIG-15's or Type-15's which were probably on a reconnaissance mission, stated that one of the enemy planes fired what appeared to be two rockets. Fifth Air Force comments that this is the first observation of the possible use of rockets by MIG-type aircraft in Korea, and it is possible that the Communists are experimenting with rockets on such planes for use in a ground attack role. Far East Air Force states that the Soviets have the capability of mounting such rockets on MIG's and that they are fully conscious of the advantages of this type of weapon in both an air to air and air-to-ground role.

From file 01 July 1952 Daily Korean Bulletin Jul-Sep (1952-07-01b), page 7
DAILY KOREAN BULLETIN   Central Intelligence Agency
Office of Current Intelligence
6049, 5 July 1952
On 4 July, UN land-based aircraft flew 909 effective sorties, of which 540 were combat. Two medium bomber missions were flown. Communist jets were much in evidence, as 84 MIG-15's and 2 Type-15's were observed in flight. Of those observed, 47 were encountered with 10 definitely destroyed, 2 more claimed destroyed, and 8 claimed damaged. (Most of these were hit by UN F-86's during the Sakchu raid.).
                              page 129
On 16 September 903 effective sorties were flown by UN land-based aircraft of which 510 were combat. UN pilots observed 111 enemy MIG?s and one type-15 in the ChoDgohon and Yalu River area and encountered 56 of the MIG?s. A total at four enemy aircraft were destroyed, 3 damaged, and 4 probably damaged With a loss of one UN Sabre. There were no bomber missions flown on 16 September.
                               page 137
On 20 September, 20 enemy MIG's were observed and 4 encountered in the Yalu River area, There was no damage to either UN or Communist aircraft. On the following day 133 MIG's and one Type-15 were observed, also in "MIG Alley." The UN pilots encountered 80 of the MIG's and the Type-15, destroying five of the MIG's. ?

To summarize things, according to the CIA-FOIA files, UN pilots sighted high wing/shoulder wing jets- tentatively identified as ?Type-15? ? between May 1951 and September 1952, 11 times. They were engaged them 7 times, claiming a total of 2 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed and 5 damaged.

Another was engaged and damaged by Lt. Carey at the end of March 1952, while 1st Lt. Dobbs claimed a probable on April 3, 1952 and another six were claimed as damaged by 1st Lt.Dearmond on an unspecified date, bringing the grand total to 14 times sighted with 10 engagements leading to claims of 2 destroyed, 2 probably destroyed and 11 damaged.

Russian and former USSR aviation historians are quick to shrug the whole thing off as just another series of multiple, poor aircraft recognition cases by UN pilots.
Me, I just think there are too many occurrences, by so many different individuals to warrant such an easy dismissal and the October 17, 1951 encounter is particularly hard to refute as the US pilot ?passed within 100 feet of the enemy plane and observed the figure "1.? ?

Your opinion?

Best regards,


Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Massimo Tessitori on March 09, 2013, 05:22:26 PM
Hi Pete,
all these reports look convincing.
At present time, the involvement of Soviet pilots in the Korean war is known. But, was it officially admitted at the time?
There are cases of Soviet official denials of facts, as the moon mission attempt of the N1-L3 program, that failed, was secreted, and was admitted only in late '90s.
It would be good to know more on the La-15s in Korean war.

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Johann on March 14, 2019, 06:27:03 AM
Aircraft La-15 was equipped with only 196 IAP. But in Korea, he was with the MiG-15 from 03/31/51 - 05/02/52. consisting of 324 iad
On March 24, 1958 the regiment was disbanded.
So the summer life of the La-15 was not long and boring.

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Massimo Tessitori on March 14, 2019, 08:46:53 AM
Hi Johann,
do you mean that the unit arrived in Korea on 03/31/51, or that it received MiG-15s on that date?

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Johann on March 14, 2019, 06:42:15 PM
No, they arrived on 03/15/51, but they already arrived re-armed with the MiG-15.
There is no evidence that at least one La-15 was outside the territory of the USSR

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Massimo Tessitori on March 15, 2019, 08:40:56 AM
I see. Thank you for the note.

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Pete57 on January 17, 2020, 10:33:35 AM
Hi Johann,

Indeed the 196th IAP was the first recipient of the La-15. At the same time, it was by no mean, the only one.

Per Lavochkin's Last Jets by Yefim Gordon, translated by Dmitry Komissarov, Midland Pub., page 35-36, (following the accident that claimed the life of Col. A.P.Shishkin, 196th IAP CO, wartime buddy and protégé of Guards Lt. Gen. Vasily I. Stalin, Cdr. of the Moscow Military District's Air Force) (quote) Stalin Jr. promptly ordered the service trials of the La'15 to be terminated; the surviving aircraft were to be transferred to Air Defense Force units. ... In one of the IA PVO units to which the La'15s had been banished...After that, the surviving La'15 stayed in service until 1954 and showed reliability and safety record no worse other, contemporary Soviet Air Force aircraft. (end of quote).

So far as the lack of records regarding the possible deployment outside of the Soviet Union is concerned, considering that all the records involving the participation of Soviet personnel in the Koren War, has once again been classified by the Putin administration and Western researchers only could pore over a relatively small part of them before they were (so to speak) locked away, I consider it far from final.

MHO only.

Best regards.

Title: Re: Type-15 (Lavochkin La-15) in Korea?
Post by: Johann on January 19, 2020, 10:24:38 AM
Yes, there is evidence that La-15 aircraft were operated in parts of the Moscow and Baku air defense districts until 1954. But unfortunately, I did not find the number of these aircraft parts.